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Wherever you are in the college search journey, use this guide to make sure you’re on track. Missed some milestones? Don’t panic. Talk to your counselor and see how you can catch up. It’s never too late to find the right college.

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In the Fall

•Meet with your school counselor early in the school year to make sure you’re taking the right classes to graduate and be ready for college. Most colleges require a full sequence of courses in the major subject areas (English, math, science, etc.). Also, ask for help in developing a list of colleges based on your interests. (Use the decision worksheet as a starting point.)

• Get involved at your school and in your community. Most colleges will look at your participation in extracurricular activities when considering your college application.

• Stay engaged in your classes and get extra help from your teacher, counselor, or others if you need it.

In the Spring

• Start thinking about your class schedule for next year.

• Meet with your school counselor and talk about your college path. Be sure to bring a list of questions about college. Here are some suggestions:

– What classes do I need to take to graduate? What classes should I take to be ready for college?

– What elective classes should I take?

– Would you recommend that I take any AP or honors courses?

– How should I study for the SAT or the ACT? Does the school offer any help?

– Can you help me develop a list of colleges to research based on my interests and the type of college I want to attend? (Use the decision worksheet as a starting point).

– Do you have information about college fairs that I should attend?

• Think about your summer plans and consider including an internship, job, volunteer position, or summer academic program.

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In the Fall

• Talk to your school counselor about whether you should take any standardized tests. Some colleges and universities have “test-optional” policies and don’t require students to submit their SAT or ACT scores. Other colleges require them.

• Attend college fairs and talk with college representatives. Ask them about campus life, application requirements, and financial aid.

In the Spring

• Meet with your school counselor to ensure that you’re still on track to graduate and are taking the right courses to prepare for college. If you have gaps to fill in, now is the time to review your course selections for senior year.

• Explore the career paths and subjects you might want to study in college. Attend a career fair or shadow a professional in a field you’re interested in to learn more about their work and the path they took to get there.

• Work with your school counselor, college advisor, parent, or guardian to develop a list of eight to ten colleges that interest you. Use the decision worksheet as a starting point. Research the colleges on your list, keeping track of your questions and the things that you like about each college.

• Obtain an FSA ID needed to complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your parent or guardian will need an FSA ID as well.

• Research scholarships from outside sources like local businesses, organizations, employers, unions, churches, etc. Be sure to note application deadline dates.

• Plan and schedule summer visits to the colleges on your list.

• Stay involved in extracurricular activities; consider a summer job, internship, or volunteer position.

Note about standardized testing: be sure to check with the colleges and universities you're interested in to understand their standardized testing requirements for applicants.

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In the Fall and Winter

• Stay on track to graduate—make sure to stay focused, and ask for help if you need it.

• Take the SAT or ACT if necessary.

• Schedule visits to colleges that interest you. Narrow down your list to about five colleges that you plan to apply to.

• On your list of colleges, write down each college’s application deadlines, requirements, and fees. Staying organized is key.

• Ask teachers, counselors, and mentors for letters of recommendation for your college applications. Pay attention to how many recommendations you need, guidelines about who should write them, and the required format.

• Attend financial aid workshops.

• Begin to gather the materials you’ll need to complete the FAFSA, which is critical to securing financial aid. You can fill out the FAFSA as early as Oct. 1. Most colleges recommend you complete it as soon as possible to maximize the amount of aid you receive. New York students should include a college or university in the state on your list of colleges so you can begin to file the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) grant application at the end of the FAFSA.

• Stay committed to your extracurricular activities.

• Work on your college applications and your financial aid applications. Be sure to keep track of all requirements and deadlines.

• Complete your applications carefully, including the essay if required. Pay attention to details, proofread everything, and be sure to submit them on time.

• Some colleges require a mid-year grade report—work with your school counselor to send that information to the colleges.

• Look for your college acceptance notices and pay attention to important paperwork and deposit deadlines.

In the Spring

• Plan for your summer job or internship.

• If you’re taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses, the spring 2023 AP exams are scheduled to be held May 1-12, 2023. Check with your school counselor for details about exam dates and the school’s plans for administration of the AP exams.

• Stay focused—most college acceptances are contingent on students maintaining good standing in their senior year.

• Review the financial aid packages you receive from colleges and calculate your net costs. If you have questions, contact the colleges’ financial aid offices.

• If possible, make any last college visits before you make a final decision.

• Decision time: Choose the college you will attend, sign a letter of intent, accept or refuse financial aid, and send in the required deposits by the college’s stated deadlines. The traditional date to notify colleges of your decision is May 1.

• Follow up on your grants, scholarships, loans, and any other aid you received.

• Celebrate! Don’t forget to send a thank-you note or email to everyone who helped you through your college search.

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